State with the most progress on the NAEP since 2009: A closer look at CA’s impressive educational performance

Contrary to flat National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) growth in the rest of the country, California’s average scores for 4th and 8th-grade reading and 8th-grade math have grown substantially, registering top growth scores nationally from 2009-2017 for 8th-grade reading (first in the nation) and math (tied for second) and 4th grade reading (tied for second). Starting at extremely low levels, the state is now approaching the national averages even though CA has the most English learner students, the most diversity, and high levels of low-income children compared to other states.

The Common Core standards were adopted in CA in 2009, when the state shifted from a primarily “test and punish” philosophy to a more “build and support” approach. This strategy had widespread political, legislative and educator support, in contrast to the rest of the country, most of which succumbed to federal and state pressure for a harsher approach. Simply put, positive support encourages stronger engagement of teachers and educators which results in improved performance.

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